Fantastic Iceland!
April 18- 25, 2017

Keely was supposed to run the 2017 London Marathon but got injured and wisely decided not to cripple herself just because we had prepaid all the airfare, car rental, and hotel fees. AND it turns out you can fly to Iceland for nearly nothing on your way to Europe, so we decided to have a stopover there.

It all starts at the Portland Airport, where I glanced at this sign and thought "What a great time to be alive - I am so glad gays are accepted enough to advertise here at PDX." At home, I read the sign more closely. Maybe next year?

$2 beer on Tuesdays! At the AIRPORT!?!?! Who ever heard of anything for $2 at the airport? Sadly, this was the last cheap thing I'd see on the entire trip. For example, Iceland Air does not offer ANY free food - not even peanuts. Keely got a $14 "Tapas Selection" that fit in the palm of her hand.

An hour to Seattle then 7 hours to Iceland, where, at 6:30am, we rented a Kia Sportage - very nice car. So nice I thought I might get one to replace my Forester, but then I saw they cost just as much as a Forester, so . . . no. Car rentals are a little skeevy in Iceland - they have lots of insurance options (Ash Insurance, for example) and the insurance doesn't mean you just walk away - it just limits your exposure.

7:00am and time to see our first sight: The Viking World museum! Who ever heard of tourist attractions being open at 7:00am? 1500kr (about $15) And they had a very nice breakfast buffet for an additional $3 (best deal in the country.)

There was a lot of contact between Icelanders and Inuits (not much of it friendly, if I read the sagas correctly.) I did like these tupilaks.

The boat is truly magnificent, and the Vikings had to be some tough b@stards to survive being on an exposed deck in the North Atlantic. That said: They had very steep scarfs on their planking, like 1:3 instead of the recommended 1:8.

I was also kinda bugged by the stem. "Traditionally" it should have been carved from a tree that had grown on a hillside. Mr Gunnar Marel Eggertsson did a fine job, but still . . .

The exhibits were well done and both informative and entertaining. Another thing that bugged me was all the examples of "trade" the Vikings had with natives from the New World when the sagas CLEARLY state the very first Indians encountered were killed (for no reason other than they were sleeping under some canoes) and the settlement had to be abandoned after a short time due to hostilities (and internal murder and intrigue.)

OK, enough of being Mr. Smartypants. It was time to go to the second attraction: Blue Lagoon. Did I tell you it was cold? It was cold.

Blue Lagoon is a naturally heated pool that is THE attraction for an Iceland visit - like seeing the Eiffel Tower if you go to Las Vegas.

Silica mud - I've never seen white mud before.

After the Blue Lagoon it was on to our hotel, the Skuggi. Very nice place. One interesting thing to note: They have a board that goes across the threshold of the doorway to the room - maybe blocking a draft? Anyway, you trip over it every damn time you enter or exit your room.

Our first sight in town was, of course, the Penis Museum! Fitting there was a penis-mobile parked in front, eh? They don't really have hotrods in Iceland (that I could see) but they do like their mud-boggers.

The Phallogical Museum was less interesting that one might think. Rather than explanations of why a penis might be shaped a particular way, it was pretty much penises in jars with little cards that had the species it came from in 6 different languages. That is a Blue Whale penis.

The Hallgrímskirkja is the tallest structure in Iceland - a church with a 277ft tall steeple, named after a guy who wrote hymns. That statue over on the right is Leif Eriksson,, the guy commanded to bring Christianity to the island. The wind was blowing a good 40mph as we walked across the plaza. A man stepped out of the church and his baseball cap was ripped from his head and blown up the face of the steeple a good 60ft or so. It kept blowing up and down for a few cycles until it finally landed.

I was starting to realize Iceland has a very stark, utilitarian, culture. I have never seen a church with so little decoration - and this place is HUGE!.

I have a friend who is in to pipe organs. Here ya go.

This was the only stained glass window in the entire Hallgrímskirkja, Adoration of the Magi.

After going to the top of the church (and nearly being deafened by the whistling of the wind) we went across the street to the Rok restaurant. The waiter advised us the plates were small and we'd want three each, but at $15-$20 a plate, we went for just two each, and it was plenty. We got a salmon dish, reindeer, fish pie, and lamb stew.

Most of the buildings in Reykjavik are utilitarian - square, few windows, pointy rooflines to handle the snow. There is some fancy street art, though.

This was the view from our room at the top of the Skuggi. There was a balcony that went all the way around, but it was so cold and windy we didn't spend more than a few minutes outside.

We closed out the evening with a walk on the main drag, down to Old Harbor, where we tried the Icelandic delicacy: hot dogs. At only $4.50 each, they were a steal of a deal, but . . . I'd take a Costco dog any day.

The next morning, we took off to drive the Golden Circle to see some sights. We stopped at an overlook and saw this sign. I guess people who visit Iceland have a habit of stacking rocks.

This is the Thingvellir, the seat of Icelandic Democracy back in the days of settlement. In the early days, there was no king - or government, really - so disputes were settled here, by votes (and sometimes, fighting.) It is also the site of the Mid-Atlantic Rift - where Europe pulls away from America.

Did I mention this was the first day of the Viking Summer? Those tough b@stards only had two seasons, Summer and Winter. Why the middle of April and not Spring Solstice? "I dunno, the Vikings did it." was the best answer we got.

Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite (from memory) the laws of Iceland (1/3 a year and he held the position for 3 years.)

Happy First Day of Summer from Oxararfoss! Iceland has a LOT of waterfalls.

We went down to the church at Thingvellir - it was supposedly built shortly after the adoption of Christianity in the year 1000. I think this might have been rebuilt a time or two since then.

I thought these were sheds for maintaining the park grounds - they are actually the Icelandic Prime Minister's Summer Residence.

Now there's a sign you don't see every day.

Dry suits. It's supposed to be a hell of an experience. Snorkeling in Iceland

That's a dramatic view. Did I mention it was the First Day of Summer?

Our next stop was Geysir, which, after visiting Yellowstone, is pretty neat, but not all that impressive. The good news is that it blows every 5 minutes or so.

They have a nice pool reminiscent of Morning Glory in Yellowstone.

Hey, what's that over there, at the geyser. Is that someone in a coyote suit? I'd better zoom in. Yup. Huh. Who brings a coyote suit to Iceland?

They have some REALLY nice shops at the visitor center at Geysir. We aren't really into fur, but that's a nice hat.

Speaking of fur, Keely makes a sad face on discovering we could buy a seal skin. She called it a "baby seal skin."

She perked right up at the thought of some high heeled galoshes, though.

Gullfoss is simply stunning.

That is a dramatic backdrop.

Our final stop on the Golden Circle was Kerio Crater Lake - quite a pretty place you can walk all the way around. The ticket taker was the only grumpy person we met the entire time we were in Iceland. He was one of the very few people we met who was older than 60 as well.

We even walked down and touched the water. Cold - as you might expect.

$35 for a horsemeat dinner. I could have chosen minki whale, but I went with horse. This is a tourist dinner (you can tell by the potato - 'taters are not part of Icelandic culture) and other tourist dinners include whale and puffin. I wanted to try boiled sheep head, but I never found it.


Here's something else we didn't try, a Fish Spa. I'll just let my dead skin slough off like everyone else, thankyouverymuch.

That's it for Iceland. We had an early flight out to continue our trip to London.

Here are some things I learned:

  • Iceland is EXPENSIVE. Deal with it.
  • Buy your booze at the airport - there is only one package store in Reykjavik and they close at 6pm.
  • Driving is just like in the US. Get the insurances. Mind the speed limit.
  • I'd recommend going a little later in the year. The First Day of Summer was pretty cold.
  • Horse is DELICIOUS.